11 Climbing Hydrangea Tips: Sticking To Fences & Trellises
If you are struggling with getting your climbing hydrangea to train up a trellis or a fence, you've come to the right place! Climbing hydrangea is extremely beautiful, but can also be quite picky about where and how it climbs. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago takes you her top tips to properly train your climbing hydrangea to climb where you want it to.
Do you love hydrangeas and want to add more to your garden? Are you running out of space? Climbing hydrangeas are the perfect! But, that doesn’t mean you can just plop them in the ground and expect them to start climbing. While climbing hydrangeas do climb better than your typical flowering shrub, they do need a little help to get moving.
First, you need to decide the location. Are you training your hydrangea to climb up a trellis? Perhaps you are training it to climb up a fence, or a lower set wall? All of the above can be done with a little dirt under your fingernails.
With the following tips, you’ll be training your climbing hydrangea to go wherever you need it to. Let’s jump in and walk through the quickest way to start filling your vertical spaces!
Choose Your Plant
First things first, let’s pick out that perfect plant! Climbing hydrangeas use aerial roots to stick onto things such as the face of your house, a fence or a tree trunk. This is different from other climbers such as traditional ivy that uses rootlets to attach itself. These rootlets can cause major damage to the structure.
There are four main types of hydrangeas that climb:
This is probably the most popular species of climbing hydrangea. This white flowering vine is a bit more showy than the rest, growing to eight inches across. This variety does not perform at its best in areas that have long, hot summer droughts.
In order to have a prolific bloom, the plant needs about six weeks of temperatures below 65 degrees. This variety is covered in really pretty, delicate white flowers in June. When the blooms have passed you are left with glossy, heart-shaped leaves. Hardy in zones 5-7.
This is a good choice for warmer climates. This evergreen climbing hydrangea is hardy from zones 7-9. It produces dense white foam-like flowers, and the vine itself will grow to up to 40 feet. Hardy in zones 6-10.
Image Credit: uwbotanicgardens via Flickr (Image Use Allowed With Attribution)
Also known as the Mexican hydrangea, this climber likes full to partial shade. This species is a little less common than the rest of the bunch. Covered in white foamy flowers, this hydrangea is fragrant in the evenings. It will grow to 30 feet in height and width. Hardy in warmer climates, zones 8-10.
Also known as the Japanese hydrangea vine, this climbing hydrangea will grow in full sun to partial shade. Although it will flower better in partial shade. This is a very drought tolerant plant. Blooms in pretty white or pink lacecap style flowers depending on which variety you choose. This plant is hardy from zones 5-8.
Choose Your Support
Climbing hydrangeas will grow on almost any structure. They will do best growing up on a tree trunk, or a stone building. However, with a little more work they will grow just as well on a fence or a wooden trellis.
The wood provides a good surface for the roots to grab onto. It will also be a good strong support for the intertwining vines of the plant. These vines will help to support the plant along with the aerial roots. They will not have a lot of success climbing up metal or vinyl, because they are too slippery.
Choose Your Location
Similar to its shrub form relatives, climbing hydrangeas will thrive in partial shade. Hydrangeas also require well draining soil. This can get tricky if you are attempting to plant your vine close to a foundation or a fence post. It is common for the soil around these areas to be rocky from construction or just neglect.
Remove any of the rocky rubble before planting and add some compost to ensure that your soil will be able to retain water. Their sticky roots will attach best to stone walls.
However, they will do just fine on a textured wood surface such as a trellis or a fence. The sticky roots do create a bit of glue that can leave stains on the climbing structure, be sure to choose an area that does not need to be painted regularly.
Plant Your Hydrangea Properly
Once you’ve got all of the details sorted out you are ready to get planting! Plant your climbing hydrangea just at the base of your climbing structure.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the size of the pot. If your soil is dense or clay, be sure to amend it with compost or peat to help the water drain which will help prevent root rot.
Do not plant deeply, and remember to keep the base of the plant at the same depth as it is in your nursery pot. Water it in well immediately after planting. Plant in late spring or fall. Once your hydrangea is planted be sure to keep it watered until it is established.
The age old gardeners saying “first it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps” is especially true with climbing hydrangeas. It can take up to three years to really get growing. This doesn’t mean you won’t see growth from year to year.
It’s more of a warning – don’t plant more plants in hopes that it will help cover your trellis or fence. Once these plants are established and really start to grow, they move quickly and one plant will cover a sizable area.
The Them Up
As your plant is growing you will want to tie your plant up to your structure. Make sure whatever you use, you tie it loosely. If it’s too tight it could damage the plant. I have climbing hydrangeas on trellises on the front of my home, and I love to use velcro garden ties. These are great because once you don’t need them in one spot anymore you can just remove them and replace them in a new spot.
When you are securing your hydrangea to your structure you will want to manipulate the vines slightly. Be sure that you are going with the growth of the plant, and try not to disturb it too much. You will want to train them upward to help encourage the growth to continue that way.
You will also want to train them to a spot on your structure where there isn’t too much other growth. This will ensure that your structure gets fully covered but also that the vines are receiving enough air flow.
Prune To Maintain Shape
Plants can have bad hair days too. If you have an unruly vine that just won’t grow where you are asking it to you can always prune it off. I would suggest that you are patient with this and give it a chance to change its route of growth. That being said, if it’s just not working, give it a trim.
Pruning should be done just after flowering has ended. If you wait too long you may risk snipping off your flower buds for next season. Pruning may be done for a number of reasons, or it may not need to be done at all!
Reasons for pruning could include removing winter damage, pruning overgrowth that has gotten out of control, or hard pruning for older plants that may have become neglected over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for any branches that may be rubbing together. This can damage the plant and provide an entry to insects or diseases.
Winter damage can occur after a heavy frost or harsh winter winds. This type of damage should be removed early on in the spring.
These plants will become vigorous growers once they have established themselves. They may outgrow your space, or just begin to spread to areas that you don’t want them to. Do not prune all of the shrub back at once, this can send the plant into shock.
Try working on one third of the plant per year. This will make sure that you are giving the plant ample time to recover before you remove more of it.
If you have neglected your climbing hydrangea, or just haven’t known how to manage it, you can cut the plant all the way back to the ground. This will revitalize your plant. You will miss out on the blooms for one season, but they will be back and better than ever the season after that.
Make Time to Deadhead
To deadhead your climbing hydrangeas just snip the spent blossoms off of the plant. Snip just above the next set of large leaves on the plant. This will keep your plant looking neat, and it will also make it easier to prune your hydrangeas.
Keep Them Watered Sparingly
Climbing hydrangeas like to be in moist soil, but not too wet. If you keep your soil too wet it could introduce diseases into the plant. While you are watering your hydrangeas it is always good practice to avoid watering from above.
Keep the hose aimed toward the ground and focus on saturating the soil rather than spraying the leaves and flowers. This way they bloom properly, and you don’t run into any issues.
Mulch When Appropriate
Mulching around the base of the plant will help to hold moisture around the plant. It also reduces weeds, which can rob your plants of water and nutrients. An inch of a good quality mulch around the base of the plant will do!
Enjoy The Off Season
These plants are without a doubt summer beauties. But don’t count them out for your fall garden. The flowers will pass, but the leaves will turn a glowing shade of yellow. When the leaves have dropped and marked the beginning of winter, the peeling bark of the hydrangea will be in shades of red or cinnamon offering a really pretty maze of branches for winter garden interest.
Climbing hydrangeas make a great addition to your shady gardens. They provide privacy, can cover up unsightly areas or old fences, and are beautiful! If you are a seasoned hydrangea caretaker, adding a climbing hydrangea to your garden space will be a breeze. If you have never grown hydrangeas, this is a great place to start!